Wild MLB Winter Meetings Rumors That Could Actually Come True
The MLB winter meetings never disappoint.
The opening days of this year's edition have been highlighted by a big three-team trade, the election of a trio of managerial legends into the Hall of Fame and, of course, ceaseless speculation. Some of the rumors are well-thought out, while others are downright absurd.
In between, there are the rumors that are so crazy that they might just work. Here's a look at a few wild MLB winter meetings rumors that could actually come true.
Note: All salary information via Cot's Baseball Contracts on baseballprospectus.com.
Rumor: The Cleveland Indians Will Deal Justin Masterson
The Cleveland Indians starting rotation needs help.
The club has already lost Scott Kazmir via free agency to the Oakland Athletics, and Ubaldo Jimenez is not expected to re-sign with the team. Now, as Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, Cleveland is considering trading No. 1 starter Justin Masterson.
As Hoynes notes, "nothing is imminent...it's more like a fact-finding mission." The right-hander is coming off an impressive season in which he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA. However, Masterson becomes a free agent at the end of 2014. As Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweets, the Indians would be looking for "longer-term options" in exchange for Masterson.
Dealing Masterson would leave the Indians with some major holes to fill in the club's 2014 rotation. With so many teams on the lookout for top-of-the-rotation starters, though, the Indians might just come across an offer that is too good to turn down.
Rumor: Mark Mulder Is Making a Comeback
According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN, Mark Mulder is looking to return to the big leagues.
The tall left-hander hasn't pitched in an MLB game since the 2008 season when he made just three appearances. As Crasnick notes, though, Mulder recently auditioned for three teams, and his fastball hit 89-90 mph on the radar gun.
Mulder explained to Crasnick that he was inspired to make a comeback attempt after picking up a mechanical tip from Paco Rodriguez while watching the Los Angeles Dodgers on TV during the playoffs. The two-time All-Star sounds optimistic about making a return:
The best way to describe it is, the ball is coming out of my hand better now than at any point when I was in St. Louis. I wouldn't be trying this if I didn't think the stuff I was throwing was good enough [to pitch in the big leagues].
That's a remarkably encouraging tone for a pitcher who has been out of the game as long as Mulder has. Of course, he will need to thoroughly prove his health before any club will extend him an invite to spring training.
If he does, though, Mulder would make for an intriguing buy-low option on an incentive-laden deal.
Rumor: The Chicago Cubs Will Consider Trading a Top Prospect
As Sahadev Sharma of ESPN Chicago reports, the Chicago Cubs are open to trading one of the organization's top prospects in order to land a "major piece."
The Cubs farm system is deep. According to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, the Cubs and Kansas City Royals are tied for the fifth-best minor league system in all of baseball. Still, the timing seems odd. The club is coming off a 96-loss season and isn't exactly expected to contend for the playoffs in 2014.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer explained his thought process to Sharma:
I think one of the great things about having a good farm system and building it up is that it's currency...We ultimately want those players to be really good Chicago Cubs. But if a couple of those players led to another player that helped our future, we would do that.
That's sound logic from Hoyer, and clearly, he's in no rush to offload his top minor league talent. As Sharma speculates, the Cubs would only make one of their premier prospects available in order to acquire an ace with a favorable contract such as Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. Sale remains under team control for six more seasons.
For now, it appears highly unlikely that the Cubs will be parting with any of their prized prospects like Javier Baez. However, if a club-controlled front-line starter hits the market, that could change.
Rumor: The Detroit Tigers Are Interested in Matt Kemp
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Detroit Tigers are among the clubs that have expressed an interest in Matt Kemp.
However, the Tigers have already signed Rajai Davis to platoon in left field with Andy Dirks. With Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter also on the roster, the Tigers don't appear to have a pressing need to add another outfielder.
Then again, that's not to say a deal should be ruled out altogether. As Rosenthal tweets, the "Dodgers' primary concern in Kemp trade is quality of return—and team is willing to include cash to get better players."
If the Dodgers kick in enough cash, the Tigers would have to seriously consider making a run at Kemp to land some much-needed lineup protection for Miguel Cabrera.
Rumor: The Philadelphia Philles Will 'Listen' to Offers for Their Aces
As Buster Olney of ESPN writes (subscription required), the Philadelphia Phillies "are willing to consider trades" for left-handers Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.
Both starters should attract plenty of interest, but they also come with extremely high price tags. The Phillies owe Hamels $112 million over the next five seasons plus a $24 million vesting option for 2019. The club is still on the hook for $50 million over the next two years for Lee with a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016.
As Jayson Stark of ESPN tweets, the Phillies are not interested in including any cash in a potential deal, and the club would only pull the trigger in exchange for a "huge return." As Stark notes, that makes any trade "unlikely."
Still, one of the Phillies aces could certainly be on the move to a big-market club in desperate need of starters. The New York Yankees fit the bill. Last month, GM Brian Cashman told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post that he was looking to add "400 innings" to the team's rotation.
The addition of Hamels would go a long way in bridging that gap. As for Lee, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times sees the Dodgers as a potential fit. Shaikin points out that the club was in on Lee back in 2011 and wonders if the veteran would be a "better fit" than David Price, as Lee would cost less in terms of prospects.
Ultimately, the Phillies will face a huge challenge in trying to unload either of these talented left-handers. However, based on the exorbitant contracts that free-agent starters are landing so far, a deal could just happen.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.